Monday, December 1, 2014

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: Full Throttle, by Julie Ann Walker

I am so honored to have the opportunity to spotlight Julie Ann's newest book in her Black Knights series, Full Throttle, which is being released today.  Enjoy the teaser below.  Then, scroll down to enter for a giveaway of a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $50 gift card and a giveaway for the entire Black Knights series.

Author Biography

Julie Ann Walker is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of award-winning romantic suspense. She has won the Book Buyers Best Award, been nominated for the National Readers Choice Award, the Australian Romance Reader Awards, and the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award. Her latest release was named a Top Ten Romance of 2014 by Booklist. Her books have been described as "alpha, edgy, and downright hot." Most days you can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission.

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Here is the summary information and a teaser excerpt from the book:


She Needs a Hero...

Abby Thompson didn't sign up to be the daughter of the President of the United States. The position was forced on her by the small matter of her birth. Preferring a quiet life of study, she's content to leave the politics and the international intrigue to her father. Unfortunately, the most powerful man on the planet is sure to make enemies. When a group of armed thugs takes her hostage half a world away, demanding the U.S. government release prisoners in exchange for her safe return, she fears her father's policy of "not negotiating with terrorists" means she'll never see the shores of the Potomac again. Luckily, there's one glimmer of hope. His name is Carlos Soto. And though she abruptly ended things with him years ago, she knows now he's the only man who can save her…

Black Knights, Inc. to the Rescue...

Carlos "Steady" Soto has taken part in his fair share of dangerous missions working at the covert government defense firm of Black Knights Inc. But nothing prepared him for the emotional rollercoaster he faces when he's tasked with rescuing the only woman he ever loved-who also broke his heart. Racing against time and outmaneuvering a group of trained terrorists will take everything he's got. Plus there's the heat simmering between them which is threatening to ignite into an inferno. While ruthless enemies stalk them, they must learn to trust each other again. Even if they do make it out alive, will Abby turn her back on him... for the second time?


So far, so good…

The hum of the Ducati was reassuring, as was Abby’s tightened grip around Steady’s waist. They were riding down the devil’s own washed--out, rutted, rock--filled hell of a rubber tree logging road, and for the first ten minutes of the harrowing journey, while she’d still been suffering the lingering effects of the sedative, it was just as difficult to keep her on the bike as it was to navigate the frackin’ jungle track.

But now they were clipping along at a steady, if decidedly slow, pace. No JI goons could be seen in his rearview mirrors—-though it was hard to tell exactly, given the fact that the forest encroached from both sides and above. And if his calculations were correct, a half hour or so more should see them entering the lovely kingdom of Thailand.

See, he wished he could call and tell Dan, sometimes it’s better to Lone Wolf McQuade things…

Abby squirmed against his back, interrupting his thoughts and alerting him to the feel of her supple thighs pressed against the outsides of his hips and legs. Which, in turn, immediately focused his attention on her soft breasts—-and distended nipples?—-grazing his back.

Okay, so who was he kidding? Like he hadn’t been keenly aware of each of those things since the first moment. Even while worming his way through the dense undergrowth of ferns and vines after escaping the encampment and hiking back to the Ducati, he’d been hard--pressed to concentrate on anything other than the feel of Abby squeezed all nice and tight against him. Abby’s soft skin touching his. Abby’s sweet smell—-even sweaty and bedraggled, she still emanated a soft cloud of dryer sheets and cocoa butter lotion—-filling his nose and making his head spin.

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas In Venice by Joanne Walsh - A Book Review

I love second chance type stories and this one delivered.  This story is about Lorenzo di Grechi and his ex-wife, Ashlynne.  

Ashlynne is traveling, on her way back home to spend the holidays with her parents in England when the weather causes a delay in Venice, Italy.  Stranded at the airport, Ashlynne is surprised to see Lorenzo also at the airport.  He invites her to spend the layover with him instead of being stranded at the airport until it reopens.  This is where the story begins to get really good for me.

Lorenzo and Ashlynne find quite quickly that the chemistry between them hasn't grown cold.  The problem is, Ashlynne is not ready to let go of the past.  Their divorce was brought on by a tragic event in their lives and she has never set it all to rest.  Enter into the mix is the past scheming of Lorenzo's former personal assistant and you have a toxic mix.

Claire, who was working as Lorenzo's personal assistant at the time of the divorce, was an instrumental part of the break-up.  She came to Ashlynne in a time of personal tragedy and set about to bring doubts into Ashlynne's mind of Lorenzo's commitment to the marriage.  

The divorce and it's aftermath brought on a moment of epiphany for Lorenzo.  He was a workaholic to the extreme and was faced with his obsessions with work being a large part of his marriage failing.  Finding Ashlynne at the airport is a gift to Lorenzo.  He now has the chance to make things right between them again.

But, can Lorenzo convince Ashlynne that he has changed?  Or will the ghosts of the past threaten to destroy any chance for a reconciliation between them?

I loved this story.  The characters have a depth that held my interest.  I loved the humor and tender moments of the relationship between Lorenzo and Ashlynne just as much as the snarky side.  The struggle that each goes through as they try to make peace with each other is painful to read due to the raw feelings they experience.  Yet, it is also a time of wanting to cheer them on as they gently make their way through the emotional mine field to find each other.

The book is relatively short which makes it a great read is you are wanting something that is light fare.  Christmas in Venice is book number 4 in the Christmas Around the World series.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cowboys for Christmas - by Liz Talley, Kim Law, and Terri Osburn - A Book Review

Typically, I have always been leery of reading anthology books that are based in the same location and time period.  This book was a pleasant surprise.

Cowboys for Christmas is a compilation of 3 separate stories.  Three friends, Claire, Georgia, and Mary Catherine, have come together for Mary Catherine's wedding.  Each of these women will be faced with choices that are life altering.  

Claire has always felt love for Mary Catherine's brother, Tyler.  When they were teenagers, they had a drunken one night stand.  Each remembered the event but never faced it in the light of day.  Claire was over weight at that time and couldn't believe that Tyler would want to sleep with her except that he had taken part in a bet with his friends.  Tyler, always was attracted to Claire.  Her weight was never an issue.  When she left him after their time together, he never understood why she had gone.  Now, she is back in Holly Hills, Texas, and he is not about to let her get away again.  

Georgia is a volleyball coach at an ivy league school.  She left Holly Hills after to get away from her horrible childhood.  Growing up in poverty, she set goals for herself that did not include ever returning to Holly Hills.  Taking part in her friend's wedding, Georgia makes the journey back to Holly Hills and meets the local veterinarian.  The fireworks between these two start firing off right away.  Can this small town vet convince Georgia that she can find a new life in Holly Hills, despite the past?

Mary Catherine is getting married to a man she went to school with.  At a time when she should be glowing with happiness, Mary Catherine is miserable.  Her overbearing stepmom has taken over her wedding, turning it into a 3-ring circus that she hates.  Her stepmom has her convinced however that this spectacle is exactly what a young woman of her breeding should do, especially when marrying a young doctor.  As Mary Catherine slowly sees pieces of her life being chipped away from her by the expectations of her fiance and stepmom, Mary Catherine is falling apart.  What makes things worse is that she has never gotten over her first love who owns on the ranch next door.  As her wedding day draws near, she has to face the decision of whether to marry her fiance as planned, or take a chance on recapturing the past with her first love.

The three stories, while each could hold it's own separately, blend well together.  There is just enough overlap to tie them together yet enough original material in each to make the stories interesting.  One story in the set, Georgia's story, was a harder read for me.  While it followed the timeline of the stories really well, the writing was hard to stay with.  I found myself skipping ahead a few times to get through it.  Over all though, the stories worked together and I found myself enjoying the book for the most part.

The Navy SEAL's Christmas Bride by Cora Seton - Book Review

The Navy SEAL's Christmas Bride by Cora Seton
This was a book that kept me laughing.  Former Navy SEAL, Dan Hemmins, goes to a friend's home for the Christmas holiday only to meet his match.  Typical of many Navy SEAL stories, he is a very alpha male type character with an ego that is off the charts.  He is competitive by nature and is a bit sexist in his opinions about women.  

Another guest at the holiday celebrations is Army soldier, Sarah Metlin.  Sarah is nearing the end of her time in the Army and is trying to decide whether or not to sign up for another tour or go ahead and get discharged.  She is a very frustrated soldier.  Sarah comes from a military family of males who are condescending over her not being more than a regular soldier.  It frustrates her to no end that because she is a woman, she cannot train to become a SEAL.  

When Dan and Sarah meet, it is instant chemistry.  The snarky comments abound as they diss each other's choice of military branch and service.  Underneath the jokes however is the beginnings of attraction.

Dan is planning to start a training program for civilians who want to experience the training SEALs go through.  Looking for investors and others to help launch the program, Dan completely overlooks the option of inviting Sarah to consider taking part.  Besides, what would a female have to offer such an endeavor, right?  Dan quickly finds out that Sarah can more than keep up with him.

Having his competitive side sparked by Sarah, Dan begins challenging her to a series of exercises.  Each one ends up with bets being made.  Dan learns fast that Sarah is not the dainty little lady he sees, but is a well trained soldier who can hold her own.  

I loved the competitive side to each of the characters.  Dan had to learn to accept that woman can be just as well trained as a man.  Sarah had to learn to accept that she will never be a SEAL, but can offer much just being who she is.....a top notch soldier.

There are ups and downs in their budding relationship.  Each has to work through their own emotional baggage.  The worst being Sarah's feelings of being held back and put down by the men in her life.  She comes to terms with it and finds out that she can command respect without the job title of being a SEAL.  

Throughout the book, there is much humor.  As the bets become more outlandish, the hilarity ensues.  At times, you wonder what a character is thinking when they act or say something totally boneheaded, but then you next cheering them on as they finally get things right.

Overall, the book is one that I thoroughly loved.  It makes for a fun read that has me now looking for more titles by Cora Seton to add to my reading list.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rocky Mountain Miracle, by Christine Feehan - A Book Review

Rocky Mountain Miracle is a story that tugs at your heart.  It is a story of healing.

Cole Steele is a loner.  He is a man with a past that has haunted him for decades.  Rumors and gossip in the small town near his ranch make the old wounds fester causing him to become even more isolated.  After the death of his estranged father, Cole has returned to his father's ranch to keep it running and be a guardian to his teenage brother, Jase.  Like Cole, Jase is also dealing with a painful torment of memories.  Both were deeply abused and tortured in their past by the very person who should have kept them safe.

Maia Armstrong is the local vet who cares for the animals of the ranches in the area.  When we met her, I was silently cheering her on.  Cole and his brother had gone to a diner and before they even got fully into the diner, they heard the local gossips spouting off.  Maia stood up to the locals and defended Cole.  In her quiet way, she was able to silence the gossips with an ease that had me admiring her.

Cole and Jase ask Maia to help them with a seriously injured horse whom Jase has been bonding to.  They drive through a blizzard to reach the ranch in time to save the poor creature.  Due to the blizzard and needing to be close to tend to the horse, Maia ends up spending an extended time with the two brothers.

During her stay, accidents are happening on the ranch.  In one event, Maia is injured.  We learn through the events that Cole is not who the townspeople believe him to be.  The pain of his past has brought about a lifestyle that has helped him to cope with the nightmares from his youth.

Cole and Maia are drawn to one another.  Her gentle nature is calming to the brothers and she serves as a bridge bringing them closer together.  As with Ms Feehan's other books, this one contains both intrigue and a bit of the paranormal. Someone is working against the brothers, but who?  What do they have to gain?

Overall, the focus of the story is the healing that both brothers experience in the gentle nature of Maia.  Christmas has always had a darkness to it in the brothers' lives.  Through Maia, they are able to learn to shed that darkness and enjoy the beauty and love of the Christmas season.

Undefeated, by Melissa Cutler - A Book Review

Undefeated, by Melissa Cutler, is a fun read.  I am new to this series.  While this is not the first book in the series, I was happy to find that it can stand alone.  The story takes place in a town called, Destiny Falls, New York.

The couple in Undefeated are a quirky couple when you look at them at face value.  Liam McAllister is a former Army combat medic with issues.  He now runs a gym where MMA fighters train.  A former fighter himself, Liam has been sidelined from fighting due to the risk of death if he takes another blow to the head in a fight.  Yeah, even being on the top of the ranks, the constant blows to the head during previous matches have left their mark on him.

Enter into this equation a yoga instructor named Marlena Brodie.  These two are a strange combination.  When I first read the intro about these two, I thought that this would either be a strange combination or it would work well.  In this case, it worked really well indeed!  Marlena is a woman escaping a bad relationship.  She meets Liam by chance and their meeting is connected to the final straw in her relationship with another man.

The story starts out with Marlena recovering from a brutal attack. Liam has taken her in to help her recover.  Their relationship starts out as friends but quickly becomes more.  As the story progresses, they really steam up the story with the intimate side of their relationship.  (Can we say graphic here?)

The storyline really takes a turn when someone from Marlena's past comes back and threatens her future with Liam.  She is faced with a choice.  She can either continue with Liam and risk his life or turn away from him forever.  Her decision marks a tense moment in the story and has devastating consequences.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Bit of Rambling

Hard for me to imagine, but I have actually gone nearly a week without reading a book.  UGH!  Life is crazy here this past week.  My Mr, likes to tease me about the books I read.  One of his favorite comments regards the ads that show up on my Kindle when it is turned off.  His funniest is when he jokingly asks me if the ads were chosen according to the books on my Kindle, what type of books or products would the ads be selling?  To this, I really have to say that I would rather not find out.  LOL  With all the "smut books" that are on the Kindle, I am certain that some embarrassing ads would be involved.  The term "smut books" is a running joke with Mr. and I. If he doesn't call it porn, that is.  I have an old VHS tape cabinet that is filled with 3 series of books by Christine Feehan.  That is affectionately called the Smut Cabinet.

I am still undecided about whether I prefer the ebooks or the paperback books.  Both have their place in my collection.  I love the convenience of my Kindle. However, I also can appreciate the feel of the actual books.  One of my prized collections is the entire KGI series by Maya Banks, which she autographed for me.  Yep! The entire series in paperback are all autographed.  They are carefully tucked away and I read the ebook versions.  Can't have the covers on the autographed copies to become worn looking!

I am quickly being won over by ebooks.  The lower cost and convenience are a plus.  I find myself trying out new authors using the Kindle.  If I really like a book, I will order a paperback version of the book to add to my collection.  That seems to be working great for me.  Reviewing books has offered me the opportunity to read many new-to-me authors and genre of books.  It is always a new adventure when reading a book from an author I have not read before.  I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of them that I look forward to reading more of their books.  With winter fast approaching, the extra reading will become a favorite pastime for me.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

In the Field of Grace, by Tessa Afshar - A Book Review

This book was an unexpected joy to read. I have always loved the Bible story of Ruth. Her quiet strength and her devotion to her mother-in-law, Naomi, has always been an inspiration to me. When I saw this title, I looked forward to having time to read it. In the Field of Grace is based upon the Bible story, but tells a more detailed accounting of her life. In my opinion, it takes a lot of creative licensing to write the storyline while still staying true to the basics.

The story begins with Ruth's life in Moab. It takes us through her meeting Naomi's son, Mahlon. And their brief courtship and marriage. We walk with Ruth as she and Naomi go through the deaths of Mahlon and his brother. Their hardship in Moab before Naomi makes the decision to return to Bethlehem. As they tarry along the way towards Bethlehem, Naomi stops and tells her daughters-in-law that they need to go back to their families in Moab. One makes the choice to leave, while Ruth makes the decision to continue to accompany Naomi.

Naomi's grief over losing her sons has taken her into a state of depression and bitterness. Having already become a widow, losing her sons has become more than she can bear. She doesn't want Ruth to continue to Bethlehem with her, but agrees after hearing Ruth's passionate response. Ruth knows that her life in Moab will not bring happiness. Naomi and her family had brought Ruth much joy to her life that she had never before experienced from her own family. As she spent more time with them and in her marriage to Mahlon, she turned away from the gods of the Moabites and accepted the God of the Israelites. She no longer to look upon the human sacrifices of the Moabite religion without feeling horror. In her heart, she had fully converted to the faith of the Israelites.

Ruth knew that by going to Bethlehem, she would be sacrificing any hope of having a marriage and children. She knew that the people there would likely never accept her. It was her love and devotion to Naomi, the woman she referred to as her true mother, that caused her to set aside any unease over the future.

Once in Bethlehem, live was a struggle for Ruth. Naomi was still battling depression and the sight of her old home set Naomi further into her withdrawal from life around her. It would take prayer and much work on Ruth's part to bring peace to Naomi. During this time, they were very poor. As was custom of the Israelite lifestyle, Ruth was able to go to the fields and glean from the harvested grain left behind from the threshers. This was a custom to help provide for the poor and destitute in their community. Each day, the women would go to the fields and gather the stalks of barley or wheat to take home. This was their way of providing food for their families.

Boaz, a wealthy land owner and relative to Naomi's late husband, allowed Ruth to glean from his fields. He took pity on her and offered protection as well as made certain that she was allowed to gather ample amounts of harvest to support her and Naomi through the upcoming winter. Boaz' attraction to Ruth was not welcome in the beginning. He was a widower and still mourned the loss of his wife & children. Being a man of stature in the community, he also was hesitant with pursuing Ruth due to her being from Moab.

Throughout the story, you begin to get a more personal look at what the lives and Ruth and Boaz was like. What did it take for him to overcome the prejudice that Israelites had towards Moabites and decide to take Ruth as a wife? We get a glimpse at the personal struggles that Ruth went through in having to step far out of her comfort zone to go to Boaz when slept at the threshing floor and offer herself to him.

The story then takes you through the first portion of their marriage until after the birth of their son, Obed. In the story, Ruth and Boaz each faced great personal struggles during that time. Overall, the story is a sweet one that adds layers of depth to the story of Ruth. I would not encourage people to look upon this story as a Biblical representation of the events, but the overall feel of the story is well done. Though the author does give a long representation in the end of her resources, I have not read each one personally. For that reason, I make that disclaimer. I did thoroughly enjoy the story though. It makes the story of Ruth much more personal and thus gives it deeper meaning.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Taste of Beirut, by Joumana Accad - A Book Review

This cookbook is one that I have been looking for. My husband served two stints in the Navy and during that time, spent a significant amount of his service in the Mediterranean region. While there, he had the opportunity to eat foods of the region. He gained a love of Middle Eastern foods that followed him back home. After our marriage, when I learned how much he loved this style of cooking, I began searching out recipes. I was often discouraged to find that many recipes are written by people who did not grow up eating these foods. The recipes seemed to be missing something. When I saw this cookbook, I knew I had to give it a try. Taste of Beirut is written by Joumana Accad, a native of Lebanon who came to America in 1979.

The recipes are a nice blend of traditional and modern. In the very first chapter, great detail is given to the basics. One example is the time spent explaining pita bread and it's role in the daily meals. Throughout the cookbook, great care is given to walking you through the recipes. You literally are taken step by step in the preparation with tips for serving and storage of the foods.

I absolutely loved that there is such detail in the book from the descriptions of what meals are traditionally like to what is in the typical Lebanese pantry. Reading through the book, I can feel the passion that the author has for this style of cooking.

The pictures in the book are very well done. I was happy to see that so many were included. Some cookbooks do not have a picture for each recipe, which is a detriment to me when I want to try something new. These pictures actually start making you hungry as you glance through them.

This is the first cookbook that I have on my Kindle that I am looking forward to buying in book form to add to my recipe books collection. It is likely to become one of my most often used cookbooks as well. If you are interested in the flavorful foods of the Middle Eastern regions, this book is a great place to start. It has all the basics that are a part of that region's diet. You can find meal ideas for every meal of the day, including some that can be snacks in between meals. Even my picky eater is enjoying foods made from this book! That alone is a feat worthy of promoting this book.

Book Review: Full Contact, by Sidney Halston

I had the absolute pleasure of reading the ARC for Full Contact, by Sidney Halston. This book is the first that I have read by this author and I was thrilled to have enjoyed it so much.

Slade is a mixed martial arts fighter who has had to stop competing. After numerous concussions from past fights, he is one concussion away from serious, life threatening injury. He becomes a co-owner of the Academy where he now trains MMA fighters. Slade has a reputation of being a man who has thoroughly enjoyed the perks of his fame where the ladies are concerned. Though he has had no interest in having a relationship, he has never let that stop him from enjoying female company. Only one woman has ever truly caught his attention in a more meaningful way....Jessica Cross. Jessica is not free though. She is in a relationship with another man, Dennis Stavros.

Jessica is in a fragile way when we first meet her. The victim of a brutal attack, she is recovering in the hospital. Slade comes to her aid and offers her a safe place to recover from her injuries. As she recovers, Slade's feelings for her deepen.

Jessica returns home and the relationship between her and Slade begins to unfold. I enjoyed their relationship and how Slade was so involved in Jessica's recovery. Jessica was no shrinking violet though. A bartender by trade, she knows how to handle herself around alpha men. There is only one man who can really put the fear into her.

An underlying storyline that comes to light in the book is that of a stalker who has set his focus on Jessica. He is exacting in his efforts and eventually comes face to face with her. The resulting backlash of that confrontation haunts Jessica and shakes her to the core. Will her budding relationship with Slade survive the aftermath of the stalker's claims on Jessica? How will Slade ever forgive her once the stalker's actions are made known?

This book is a great read. I absolutely loved the characters in the story. Sidney Halston has gained a new reader with this book. I look forward to reading more of stories in the future.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: Rocky Mountain Romance - by Vivian Arend

I have had the pleasure of reading Rocky Mountain Romance, by Vivian Arend.  What a wonderful opportunity to preview this book.  

This is a sweet story of second chances. A year prior to the story's beginning, Steven comes from a family of ranchers. The Coleman family is large, boisterous, and a fun bunch to get to know through the books in this series. Steven is a bit of a playboy. He would much rather be having fun than working. He and Melody were dating, but after one final mistake on his part, she breaks off their relationship and leaves to further her training in the veterinarian career field.

The story open as Melody is returning to town. Having finished her trainings, she is going to be working for the local veterinarian's clinic in their small community. She hasn't had contact with Steven during her time away. Upon her return though, they meet and sparks are definitely still in place between them.

There are a couple of themes to this story. The first is the rebuilding of Steven and Melody's relationship. He has a hard row to hoe with Melody in the beginning. How does a cowboy prove to his lady that he has changed? How does he prove to her that he is no longer the irresponsible man he was when she left? Throughout the story, we see Steven owning up to his past faults and his efforts to show that he is a new man with a stronger sense of responsibility. The secondary storyline is that of Melody finding her way through a very male dominated world. When the clinic's owner decides to take a vacation for the first time in many years, he leaves Melody in charge of the large animal care. Her peer, Tom, is not happy. He has been left in charge of small animals that are brought to the clinic. He is openly resentful towards Melody over the situation. Another source of irritation for her is the reaction of a few of the ranchers who's livestock she is treating. They don't like the idea of a young woman coming out to tend their animals are not shy about letting her know how they feel.

Throughout the story, I have mixed emotions. I love the humor and the verbal banter between Melody and Steven's family. She fits into their family well and the women have embraced her as a part of the clan. The only part that gives me pause is the way Steven & Melody's relationship plays out. I get it that he screwed up in past and he is wanting Melody to see that he is a different man than he had been. It seems so one-sided. In the end however, I felt a lot better about the storyline as Melody has her own moment of realization that she too had a part in the failure of their past relationship. She realizes that she is also at fault and even now is wrong in how she treats & thinks of Steven. Melody finally comes completely to her senses in that regard and makes amends with Steven.

Overall, I loved the story and am looking forward to the next book. Ms. Arend does a great job of bringing you into the world she is writing about. You can connect with the characters and end up alternately wanting to laugh with them or slap them upside the head, telling them to “snap out of it.” I laughed often at the antics between the Coleman family members. Other times, I shook my head wondering why someone would say/do what was happening in that moment. The book thoroughly kept me entertained.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Book Review: Home in Harmony by Christa O'Leary

Our family lives a fairly simple life when compared to others.  We love the quiet and peace that living off-grid brings.  When I saw this book, I thought it may bring yet another aspect of serenity in the home to our perspectives.

As I read the book, I loved that the first thing we really begin to learn is just ow habits, both good and bad, affect our daily life.  Many of the things we do are so automatic that we do them without thought.  It is routine to us.  This not only encompasses what we are aware of, but also what only our subconscious is doing.  Ms. O'Leary gives wonderful examples of the way habits are formed and how they affect us on a daily basis.

In subsequent chapters, Ms. O'Leary focuses on other influences, such as our home, mind, and spirit.  She walks you through each area, pointing out the subtle things we may not realize are bringing discord to our spirit and our general well-being.  She talks about the toxins we face that affect our health and gives ideas on how to eliminate them.  Some of the toxic things are tangible, such as chemicals in the products we ue or foods we eat.  Other toxins are the outside influences such as the negativity in people, media, and the various other ways that we allow the outside world's values touch our life.

One minor area that I cringed at in the book was her skirting the line of the "green" issues.  IN some ways, she sounded more like a "green" activist and it took away from the overall feel of the book that I had been having.  

Overall, the book is good and it has value in bringing awareness to the readers of how much we allow the toxins of life into our homes.  She has good advice on how to shed the standards and values that society deems acceptable or necessary and replace them with the values that we truly feel at peace with.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: Full Throttle by Julie Ann Walker

When I found this title, my attention was caught right away. It jumped out at me above the other titles I was looking through. I have to admit, that with that title, I had high expectations for the story. I hoped that it would live up to its title. I was not disappointed! The story starts with a bang and takes you on an adrenaline filled adventure from start to finish.

Carlos and Abigail have a history. Carlos and his twin sister, Rosa, met Abigail while they were all at college. Abigail came from a wealthy family. Her father was aspiring to become the next US President. Carlos and Rosa came from a much more humble background. The relationships between the three was a very close one. Early in the story, a devastating event would take place that would change Carlos and Abigail's lives forever.

Carlos gave up his studies to become a surgeon and enlisted in the military. He eventually became an Army Ranger. Now, he is working with a black ops group, Black Knights, Inc. The Black Knights are an elite group of soldiers. They are the personal security force that works for Abigail's father, President Thompson.

Abigail also left behind her studies to become a doctor. She is now working in the field of horticulture. In the story, she travels to Malaysia to attend a horticulture conference. She is escorted there with Secret Service security detail. The President sends along a few of the Black Knights to help ensure his daughter's safety. Among them is Carlos, who she hasn't seen since the tragedy at the college 8 years earlier. The attraction between them is still as strong, if not stronger, than it has ever been.

One night, while still in Malaysia, Abigail is kidnapped in a well planned and executed event. The event is one which has a tragic impact on the security detail. It doesn't take long for Carlos to learn that Abigail has been taken. This is where we begin to see just how deep his feelings for Abigail still are. During her captivity, Abigail holds on to the hope that Carlos will find her.

The story is centered on the rescue of Abigail. Carlos finds her and Abigail is forced to face the past. She blames herself for the event that happened during college and lives with that guilt. The secret that she holds may cost her a future with Carlos. When he learns the truth, will he walk away?

“Full Throttle” delivers in a big way. It is page after page of action. I loved how the story amps up the intensity, lets it lower a bit, then takes you back up into the high intensity again. It is like a ride on an extreme roller coaster.

After reading this story, I am excited to start collecting the earlier books in the series to read. I think I have found another “go to” author which I will greatly enjoy reading. Intermixed with the intense storyline we are treated to an absolutely entertaining wit. Abigail doesn't cuss. She does make up her own form of curse words. The things that she spouts off are absolutely hilarious to read.

This book is such a great read. The title describes the story very well. From start to finish, it takes you on a ride at..... Full Throttle.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review: Flaming Hot

Flaming Hot is an anthology of 3 short stories by Lynn LeFleur. This book is the second in a series about the Firefighters of Lanville, Texas.  All of the stories in this book were well written and complete. One aspect of short stories that always gives me pause is that often you are left hanging when the ending comes. At times, the short stories can seem unfinished with too many aspects of the story being unresolved. Other times, the story goes at an even pace until the very end where the conflict resolution happens in a rushed manner. With Flaming Hot, none of the stories had those issues. I was left feeling really good about the stories and how they ended.

The first story, Fiery, is about Quade Easton and Eve Van Den Bergh. Quade is school counselor who also serves on the town's volunteer fire department. Eve works in a fabric store owned by a friend. After 2 failed engagements, she has sworn off relationships. In spite of her resolve, she finds herself attracted to Quade. Through patience and gentle persistence, Quade brings down the walls she has built up around herself and shows her that love is worth taking the chance.

The second story, Flare, is about Cort Brennanman and Paige Denslow. Paige manages a local convenience store. Cort is a new comer to the town. Coming to the convenience store to fuel up his Harley, Colt's bad boy appearance draws Paige's notice. There is an instant attraction between Paige and Cort, As they begin their relationship, Cort's secrecy about his past raises questions for Paige. She becomes even more concerned when a theft at a convenience store in a nearby town matches up with a night when Cort was MIA. Cort is definitely a man of secrets. Could he be somehow involved with the convenience store thefts that have been happening in their region? The truth comes to light late one night when Paige's store is targeted and she is there alone. Will her bad boy be her savior in her time of need, or will he break her heart?

The last story in the book, Flash, was one that was a bit of a surprise to me. It is the story of Kirk Wilcox and a newcomer, Joshua Stafford. Stories about same-sex relationships are not a genre that I seek out. I read this one though in order to give it a review. I wasn't sure what to expect from it. I have to admit that I did like the story. Kirk and his twin brother, Kory, work at their father's hardware store. No one in town, including his family, are aware that Kirk is gay. He has dated women, but never felt any connection to them. He struggles with his secret life, afraid of what his family and others would do if they knew the truth about him. Josh comes to town and is looking for a temporary job at the hardware store. Kirk and Josh are attracted to each other and soon begin their relationship. Through Josh's support, Kirk is finally able to talk to his family and let them know his secret. Sadly for Kirk, his time with Josh is limited. Josh only planned to be in town for a few months. Time is running out and though Kirk has tried to guard his heart, he has fallen hard for Josh. Can their relationship be enough to convince Josh to stay when the time he planned to leave has arrived?

Word of warning, this book is graphic in nature.  So, if that is not something you want to read, you may want to read something else.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review - Once Perfect by Cecy Robson

Today, I finished reading, Once Perfect: Shattered Past, by Cecy Robson. This book is of a genre that I have not been familiar with. A romance story under the New Adult label. The description of the book intrigued me.

Mateo Tres Santos is a guy from the rough side of town. He is an underground MMA fighter with a criminal past. Mateo works as a bounder in a club and is well respected by his co-workers. He is a complete badass when you look at him. Having a large build, tattoos, along with his past stint in prison, Mateo is one who's appearance puts fear in Evelyn.

Evelyn is a college student who grew up as the only child in a wealthy family. Her mother died when she was a young child and she was raised by her father. Misdeeds of her father prior to his suicide has caused her the loss of the family wealth. Upon his death, Evelyn was forced to face a life of poverty. Having grown up with wealth, she is completely ill equipped to face this future. Friends and those close to her prior to her father's death are no longer a part of her life. They have turned their backs on her in her time of need.

Evelyn finally finds work at a local club. It is here that she meets Mateo. She steers clear of him out of fear. His criminal record, tattoos, and his badass demeanor at work has her completely unnerved when he is around. That is until the night Mateo surprises her by coming to her aid. Mateo, she learns, is a gentle giant. Being the lead bouncer of the club, he has a tough guy image that he has honed well. In private however, he shows Evelyn that he is someone she will never need to fear.

Both Mateo and Evelyn are tortured souls. Each has a past that threatens to consume their lives. Because of their hidden pasts, each is broken and struggles to get through each day. It is compelling to see their vulnerability and how they face it together. Each try to face their personal demons alone. They finally realize that it is their leaning on each other that makes them strong enough to overcome the demons that haunt them. As they faced their struggles, I found myself wanting to cheer them on as they worked through the baggage that they each brought to their relationship.

There are other characters in this book that I connected with as well. Mateo's two younger sisters were especially strong in their influence on me. I find myself now hoping that Cecy Robson will write their stories as well. The traumas that Mateo deals with are ones that have affected his sisters as well. Each had their own experiences with the antagonist that has had a major influence on how they relate to others. I would love to see the girls each have a story that leads them to finding happiness as well.

The humor in the book is of the snarky sort that you would expect from a person in their 20's. It was refreshing and I found myself laughing often. This book was written in the first person. Typically, I don't like books written in that way, but this one worked for me. It was told from Evelyn's perspective. I love the balance that the author had in her writing. In previous books by other authors, that hasn't always been the case. Some write the first person perspective to the point of being anal. As a reader, I really don't care to have an unfiltered glimpse into the person's thoughts and emotions. While this book does let you know what is going on in Evelyn's mind, it is done in a way that eases you through it. Thank heavens!!! I know that I, for one, have no desire to be a fly on the wall inside a college student's mind. <shudder> LOL

Overall, I highly recommend this book. The struggles that are faced in the story are definitely adult issues that I would not suggest for a young teen or someone who is sensitive to topics of abuse. The abuses mentioned are not done in a graphic way, but some gentle souls may have a hard time with it.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Shannon Stacey's No Place to Hide

Today, I finished reading my first title by Shannon Stacey, “No Place to Hide.” This is the 4th book in the Devlin Group series.  After reading this book, all I can say is OMG!!!!  I have found another series to start collecting and reading.  I am looking forward to seeing what other series Shannon Stacey has been writing as well.

I was first introduced to this book when I read a review on the Nerd Girl blog. I am always on the lookout for new-to-me authors. As I read her thoughts on the book, I knew that this would end up being a series that I might enjoy. In her review, she mentioned that the books would look great on the shelf with her KGI series by Maya Banks, I was hooked. Now, I knew that I had to read this book.

Knowing that Nerd Girl mentioned the KGI series, I was a little hesitant. I wanted to read the book, but I absolutely love the KGI series and I knew I would be holding this new book to that standard. I determined that I would keep an open mind and started reading.

Within the first few pages, the book had me. I no longer thought about the KGI comparison and was thoroughly absorbed into the story. The characters are well written and I immediately connected with them. I am a sucker for male characters who are a combination of a total badass and the smart-ass humor.

One issue that I knew I might have going into the story was the fact that there is previous history with the male and female lead characters. They were introduced in the previous book and their relationship was left unfinished. (Think Bacall and Bogard on the tarmac at the end of the classic movie, Casablanca.) What I found however was that this book, while a part of a series, can stand alone. There are just that right amount of references to the past that you don't feel like you are coming into a conversation halfway through.

Jack Donovan is a very strong male lead. Total badass, but you get the feeling that he is losing interest in what he does. He has been out of sorts ever since he came back from a mission in Africa a year before this story begins. On that mission, he had rescued Isabelle Arceneau from guerillas that had kidnapped and held her captive for 2 years. During their time together, Jack and Isabelle developed feelings for each other. In the end, Jack walked away from Isabelle leaving both without any closure.

This story picks up a year after Isabelle's rescue. She has begun feeling strong again after dealing with the emotional aftermath from her time in captivity. Suddenly, a new danger has come to her door. She has become the target of an unknown assassin. Out of desperation, Isabelle calls the one person that she trusts to help her....Jack Donovan.

The story takes you on the action packed journey of Jack and Isabelle as they try to stay one step ahead of the assassin. It is no ordinary threat being made towards Isabelle. This assassin is a person of legend who has never failed in completing a job. He is a ghost with no name who is only known by his execution weapon of choice, a very rare antique Russian gun. While trying to find out who the assassin is and why Isabelle has become a target, they struggle to come to terms with the unfinished business of their past.

It would be so easy to have Isabelle be written as a fragile woman in this story, but she is far from it. I love that Shannon Stacey wrote Isabelle to be a strong woman who faces the danger without totally falling apart. She is by no means a shrinking violet in this story. Isabelle has survived living in a personal hell during her captivity and has come out all the stronger. She has her moments of temporarily being unnerved, but I thoroughly loved watching her character's transformation. When push comes to shove, she has no problem protecting herself and facing the ultimate danger.

Underneath this story's action of dodging bullets and narrow escapes, is a story of the love between Jack and Isabelle. Jack is a conflicted soul. He loves Isabelle but is not willing to bring her into the life he lives. He wants her to always be safe and doesn't see how he can make that happen for her if they pursue the relationship. So, he spends a lot of time pushing her away emotionally. Isabelle knows that Jack is the one for her and is willing to fight for him. In the midst of danger, they finally come to grips with their feelings for each other.

Now, Jack has even more on the line in protecting Isabelle. With bullets flying and danger fast on their heels, how will Jack keep Isabelle alive....when there is No Place to Hide?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My First Review - A Book by Maya Banks

I have been thinking for some time of what book I would like to do my first review for.  There are so many great authors out there that I have enjoyed reading.  One author's series has been holding me spellbound though.  The core characters are a glimpse at the family many would have loved to be born into.  Their close relationships and complete loyalty to each other just touches my heart.  Add into the mix that the men are uber alphas who are total badasses until their woman is around and you have the formula for some humor and fun. Let's face it.  I am a total sucker for a story with an extremely alpha man who only shows his gentler side to his woman.  And heaven help anyone who messes with her!  On the surface, the stories may seem as though alpha man fights for and protects his fragile woman.  Nothing could be further from the truth in this series!  Each woman, has gone through life experiences that have given her a spine of steel when needed.  You do see their vulnerable times, but it is then that you also see the tender side of the men.  It makes a great balance for me.  So, who am I talking about?  The Kelly family introduced to us in the KGI series by Maya Banks!

Recently I began rereading the KGI series.  There are currently 9 books in the series.  Tonight, I finished reading "Whispers in the Dark" which is book 4 in the series.  Of all the stories, this one is the first to bring into the mix a paranormal element in the series.

The story begins with the story's heroine, Shea Peterson, connecting with a stranger who is suffering great pain.  Shea is a telepath and connects with people randomly.  It is in such a way that she hears and connects with the suffering of a man.  When she can no longer silently bear his pain and despair, Shea risks her own life to fully connect with him through her psychic talent.

Nathan Kelly was a captured soldier in Afghanistan.  In a military operation gone wrong, Nathan and several members of his patrol are taken prisoner.  They are separated from each other, tortured methodically, and one by one are being executed.  Nathan has begun to lose hope of rescue or escape.  When he is hitting his lowest point, he hears her voice.  At first, Nathan battles with the thoughts of going insane.  Then, he comes to a level of acceptance of the strange connection.  Through the telepathic bond, Shea is able to absorb the pain of the torture and injuries from Nathan.  She gives him hope and the ability to be free of pain long enough to gather his strength for what is to come.

Shea knows that her time is limited.  Each connection she makes with Nathan weakens her at a time when she is running for her very life.  Her compassion won't allow her to close herself off to this wounded warrior.  So, she finds a way to help him and the last remaining member of his team to escape so that they might be rescued.

Months later, after his return home, Nathan is struggling to make a life at home with his family.  The Kelly family are determined to help but at a loss of how.  Nathan has closed himself off from them as he deals with the aftermath of his time in captivity.  He is also dealing with the loss of his bond to Shea and questions whether she was real or a figment of his imagination.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Nathan hears Shea calling out to him.  Her enemies have caught up to her and now she is the one being held captive and tortured.  Nathan risks everything to find Shea and bring her home.  Along the way, they discover that the bonds which began to be forged between them all those months ago, have built in them a connection that nothing can sever.  But, have they found each other only to be ripped apart from each other when enemies find them again?

The KGI series is first and foremost a story about the Kelly family.  The six Kelly brothers all served in various branches of the military.  After their service ended, the older brothers formed KGI, Kelly Group International.  Along with their teams, KGI goes on missions that others cannot do.  Everything from hostage rescue to going after a criminal.  Deep in the heart of each book though is the bond of the Kelly family.  Frank and Marlene Kelly, the parents, are truly the head of that family.  Their devotion to their family is deep and profound.  Frank is the steady rock that Marlene leans on.  Marlene is no shrinking violet however.  A former school teacher, she is tough as nails in the running of the family, but has a soft heart for her children.  I love her fierceness.  She can dress her grown sons down with a look, yet gently cares for each of her "chicks" as they are called.  Each stray person who she finds becomes an adopted member of the family, one of her chicks, whom she is devoted to.

I love the interaction between the brothers.  They tease and are snarky as all hell with each other, yet you are also shown the total loyalty they feel towards one another.  Each willing to protect and fight for the other.  When Nathan reaches out to his brothers to aid him and Shea, there is no hesitation.  Through her bond with Nathan, Shea has become a part of the Kelly clan.  Her enemies have become theirs and they are about to find out the meaning of the Kelly motto - "No one f**ks with the Kellys."

Welcome to My Bookcase

I have been wanting to start this blog for quite some time now.  I absolutely LOVE to read and talk about them.  One of my favorite gifts has been my Kindle.  My sweet husband took pity on me and my lack of storage for the quickly growing collection of books that I was gaining.

I am looking forward to sharing my bookshelf with you.  I am a huge fan of paranormal and romance books.  Some books are even on the risque or otherwise spicy side.  Often, I will read books from other genre as well.  Pretty much, my books tend to be whatever perks my interest at the time.

When it comes to favorite authors, I do have some that I consider to be safe bets.  Those are the authors who have written so many books that I have enjoyed that I am more likely to enjoy any future books that they write.

Book pet peeve that I have are the books that continue one couple's story through multiple books. I have bought a few of those as an ebook without the warning it would have a "to be continued" ending.  Quite honestly, those books tend to simply piss me off.  I love to read series about a family, such as the KGI series by Maya Banks.  While it is a series about a family and organization, each book is able to stand alone.

I hope that you will find this blog to be fun to read.  It is simply my way of sharing my love for books.